0 RFU wants grassroots system to be envy of the world

grassroots rugbyEngland coach Eddie Jones has set out a target to establish the team as game's most dominant side and the goal is similar for the RFU's rugby development director Steve Grainger: he wants England's grassroots game to be the envy of the world.

"We have a similar goal," Grainger tells ESPN. "We want to be the most dominant nation in terms of participation numbers, we want to have more people playing the game and more matches being played than any other nation and we want to increase our stake in the sporting landscape in England.

"We want to penetrate more into the football area and get more people exposed to rugby and that's where our goals and Eddie's work well together. If we are exposing more people to rugby then you get more people talking about it and then more people will get engaged with rugby and play the game."

The intangible term 'legacy' seems to plague English rugby. The 2003 World Cup win saw a rise in playing numbers to 255,000 once-a-week participants in 2005 but by 2013 this had fallen to 190,000. But there are signs of optimism.

The latest figures from Sport England show there are 191,000 once-a-week players and 272,900 once-a-month participants. The total number sees in the region of 500,000 folk playing rugby across 2,000 clubs, 1,350 secondary schools, 110 colleges and 130 universities.

And despite England's dismal performance in 2015, he is hopeful the planning which started in 2012 will pay dividends.

"2003 was a very different situation, you can't just deliver legacy - you have to plan for it in advance," Grainger said. "This was different as it was a home World Cup. In October 2012 we talked about the investments and improvements we were going to make to the facilities, a drive to get more coaches into the game and also get more secondary schools playing the game.

"We also wanted to get senior players back into the game and we have unashamedly focused on that for the last three years.

"We have spent a significant amount of money and time putting in place some strong foundations. We spent over £10m which levered £30m from local partners to improve over 500 clubs' facilities to make sure that those clubs are ready and right. Four hundred state secondary schools that weren't playing rugby four years ago now are.

"That's been about three years of upfront investment to build strong foundations and that will lever the effect of the World Cup over the next four or so years."

Article by Tom Hamilton, ESPN, Rugby Editor

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